UF MPH program offers competitive edge

By Julie Walter

The Master of Public Health Program at the University of Florida is recognized for preparing students for the professional world. Recently, two graduating MPH students, Pamela Sanchez and Omari Richins, have been selected for prestigious post-graduate positions.

Sanchez, PamelaPamela Sanchez, a student in the epidemiology concentration, was selected as a summer intern with the Introduction to Cancer Research Careers Program at the National Cancer Institute, or NCI. Omari Richins, whose concentration is in public health management and policy, was selected as a community health fellow with the Mat-Su Health Foundation in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough of Alaska.

Sanchez chose to study epidemiology because she said it isn’t like typical general practice. She said she is fascinated by the inclusion of environmental and social factors.

Sanchez said Cindy Prins, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the Master of Public Health Program, suggested she apply for the internship and without her mentorship, Sanchez would never have known about the opportunity. The competitive internship had over 100 applicants from across the nation of which only 16 were selected.

“The MPH prepares you very well for whatever you wish to do after you graduate,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez will work at the NCI’s facility in Rockville, Maryland, starting June 1. She said the NCI is very focused on mentorship in general, and her mentors have allowed her to choose her subject of focus. She will be concentrating on nutrition and liver cancer.

During his one-year fellowship, Richins will work on community health needs assessments using a participatory approach. The goal is to engage community members to understand their experiences and to be able to collaborate for change. As a fellow, Richins will try to increase participation from minority groups who have been underrepresented in past community health needs assessments.

“The support, not only from faculty members but also from administrative staff, throughout the M.P.H. program has helped me acquire the fellowship,” Richins said.

Prins, also the college’s assistant dean for educational affairs and a clinical associate professor of epidemiology, said Richins, who served as president of the UF Public Health Student Association during the 2018 calendar year, was one of the most successful presidents they’ve had. She said he shows a lot of initiative and involvement in the college that demonstrates his dedication to the program.

Prins added that the UF MPH program prepares students for a variety of career paths, all designed to improve the public’s health.

“The program is a really nice combination of applied public health, where students have the opportunity to work in community settings, but also, offers opportunities for students to do research, which is a strength at the University of Florida,” she said.